Business

Less than three months left to pay real property tax arrears

January 08, 2017

Bahamians with outstanding real property taxes now have less than three months to pay in full in order to avoid penalties.
The Department of Inland Revenue (DIR) in a statement published yesterday reminded all individuals with real property tax arrears that the end of the amnesty period is "fast approaching" and arrears should be paid in full by March 2017 in order to receive a 100 percent waiver on their surcharge.
"However, customers who are unable to meet that deadline but can pay their arrears in full on or before June 30, 2017 will receive a 50 percent discount on the surcharge. Certain restrictions may apply," the statement said.
Under the amnesty program, the government introduced a surcharge waiver, which gives taxpayers an opportunity to clear arrears without any penalties.
Reminders were also issued for those in the business community. "Renewal applications should be submitted on or before January 31, 2017 to avoid late payment penalty. Payment of business license fees is due on or before March 31, 2017," the DIR said.
Since January 2017, the value-added tax (VAT) filing and payment deadline was narrowed to the 21st of every month, a cut of seven days.
Business owners were told to "expeditiously" comply with the new adjustment.
The DIR said, "Businesses are advised that monthly and quarterly filings are now due on or before the 21st of the month following the monthly and quarterly tax filing periods."
Controller at the Department of Inland Revenue Roger Forbes said, "We recognize that adjustments are necessary to facilitate this change and advise business owners to move expeditiously to comply."
The department also recently expanded its online payment platform to facilitate the payment of real property tax.
"This latest addition makes it possible for all taxes, value-added tax, business license fees and real property tax to be paid online.
"The DIR is encouraging tax payers to utilize this facility, which eliminates the frustration of long lines and the challenge of navigating the busy streets of New Providence to meet tax compliance deadlines," according to a government press statement.
For those who do not want to submit payments online, the DIR advised the public that payments can also be made at any Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch.
Forbes said, "We are creating a new paradigm and positioning the department to move away from over-the-counter payments. This is also part of our consistent effort to eliminate the frustration of long payment lines at our headquarters and create more convenient options. We have introduced a reliable, efficient and secure electronic process that makes it much easier for the public to pay its taxes and meet the established compliance deadlines."

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Stellar still 'very much interested' in landfill

January 08, 2017

Stellar Energy Ltd. said in a press release on Friday that it is still "very much interested" in taking over the operations at the New Providence landfill, since Renew Bahamas ceased management of the site.
Stellar is the company at the heart of the controversial letter of intent (LOI) signed by Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells when he was parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works on July 4, 2014. Wells was fired over the matter and left the Progressive Liberal Party for the Free National Movement a year later.
However, Stellar is back with the intention of taking over the landfill and beginning the process of turning New Providence's waste into energy, as is done in many countries across the world.
"It is our intention, once approvals are granted, to mine that site and build a fully functional waste-to-energy plant," the release said.
"As part of our plan, the entire dump site would be remediated and sanitized, putting an end to obnoxious fumes from burning trash."
Stellar had sought to do studies at the landfill while Renew was still managing the site, but company officials were denied access to do their work. Now that the landfill is back in the hands of government, Stellar said it intends to move swiftly with plans that had gotten underway three years ago.
"Stellar Energy Ltd. has not walked away from plans for the site; in fact our efforts to transform the landfill have only intensified," Stellar's release said.
"Since Renew Bahamas ceased management of the facilities, the hardworking staff of the Department of Environmental Health Services has taken over the day-to-day running of the landfill."
Stellar, in its press release, also sought to clarify rumors that the company was just another iteration of Renew, saying: "our company is in no way affiliated with Renew Bahamas or its previous management contract at that site".
Stellar's move to turn waste to energy comes as the government continues to liberalize the energy sector in order to make room for more renewable energy options.
"We still believe The Bahamas would benefit tremendously from waste-to-energy technology, which would not only take care of the dump site, but also provide a much needed boost to the energy grid," said Stellar.

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The Bahamas welcomes five new chartered financial analysts

January 08, 2017

The Bahamas has five new chartered financial analysts (CFA), and the country will need more if it is to remain a leading financial jurisdiction in the future, President and CEO of the CFA Institute Paul Smith said Friday.
Speaking to Guardian Business at the Charter Awards Ceremony at The Island House, Smith said the CFA brand is highly regarded globally, and many top people in The Bahamas' financial services industry have the designation.
According to Smith, because of the climate for offshore financial jurisdictions globally, tax breaks and tax exemptions will no longer be the golden ticket that will drive high net worth individuals and corporations to The Bahamas. He said talent will have to be the game changer.
"If The Bahamas is to survive and thrive as a financial jurisdiction, it has to be well known in the future for having highly talented people who are there to serve their clients," Smith said. "It can no longer exist as we used to exist in the offshore world."
On Friday, Leonard Scott, Jason Smith, Tiffany Smith, Jontra Rolle and Oliver Turner received their awards and were welcomed into the CFA Society The Bahamas.
"The (CFA) brand for a lot of international businesses is very high, so it says something to employers and future employers not just about their technical ability, but about the person they are," said Smith.
"It doesn't get you a job necessarily, but it tells the perspective employer that is doing that initial screening of you, what type of person you are.
"They are very highly regarded and we are extremely fortunate that we have a lot of highly placed CFAs (in The Bahamas)."
Smith implored Bahamians who are looking for investment advice to find someone who "has that CFA after their name".
"It's not just about technical competence, but it's also about ethical training as well, and the CFA places right at the center of everything we do, ethics," he said.

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Bahamas Development Bank earmarks 500,000 for loans to small farmers

January 08, 2017

The government has earmarked $500,000 in assistance to small farmers across this nation's archipelago. The funding, which will be disbursed through a micro-loan initiative between the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) and the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), is expected to go toward farm upgrades and agricultural improvements, Assistant Manager of Credit for Bank of The Bahamas Ian Rutherford said.
Under the agri-development initiative, the funding will be channeled through the BAMSI Associated Farmers Programme (AFP), with member farmers able to apply for an individual loan up to $10,000, with interest on the repayment set at prime plus two percent.
Executive Director of BAMSI Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna was part of a team that participated in a workshop put on by the bank recently. The aim of the workshop was to educate extension officers, AFP's administrative team and other members of the BAMSI team about the program. Dr. Roberts-Hanna said the venture is an important step toward strengthening the nation's agriculture industry and would serve as a great resource for small farmers who need a modest injection of capital for farm upgrades and improvements to their infrastructure.
Dr. Roberts-Hanna also pointed out that for students and graduates of BAMSI, becoming a member of the AFP and accessing the BDB's micro-loan initiative positions them for success as they look to launch their own entrepreneurial ventures in agriculture, livestock, plants or even fisheries.
"This is key for our students because the exposure opens up their minds to potential ventures and their ability to build a business without all the red tape and hassle usually experienced when trying to work within the commercial banking sector," she said.
During the workshop, participants learned about the application process, including what documentation is needed to fulfill the bank's requirements, how long the application process takes (approximately two weeks) and what supporting documents - such as invoices and copies of quotes - should accompany the application form.
The most important stipulation that potential applicants should be aware of is that membership in the BAMSI Associated Farmers Programme is mandatory for the loan application to be processed.
Rutherford explained the rationale behind the precondition, pointing out that agriculture and fisheries represents only two percent of the bank's portfolio and 90 percent of that category of loans is nonperforming. "Agriculture and fisheries represent 1.8 percent or 1.6 percent of GDP. It is an underperforming and underdeveloped sector of the economy that we are seeking to develop as a part of our mandate," he said.
BAMSI's involvement in the initiative is viewed as fail-safe. Members of the institute's AF program receive tremendous technical support and are encouraged to implement best practices at every stage of production. Once the farmers follow the program, BAMSI is committed to purchasing produce from them. "All we're asking is for you to register in the Associated Farmers Programme. BAMSI has a mandate to purchase whatever you are able to produce as a farmer, so once BAMSI purchases any items, a portion of those funds will be used to pay down the farmer's debt to the bank. It's a controlled way to repay funding that we would be lending them," Rutherford said. He also noted that as part of the process, BDB will receive confirmation from BAMSI that the farmer/operation is viable before awarding the loan.
Applicants should also be aware that under the lending terms, the bank will provide financial support for tangible assets only. Each applicant can apply for a total of $10,000 and the money is expected to go toward items such as an irrigation system, farming equipment, buildings (greenhouse, slaughter house, drying facilities), office equipment and animal production apparatus. As part of the BAMSI Associated Farmers Programme, applicants will already have access to basic farm materials, such as seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides and even livestock.
As part of the approval process, Rutherford indicated, the bank will examine the individual borrower, and the nature and amount of the loan. The repayment term of the credit facility is determined based on the useful life of the asset being purchased.

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University of The Bahamas students gain work experience at Resorts World Bimini

January 08, 2017

BIMINI - A pilot partnership project between the University of The Bahamas (UB) and Resorts World Bimini (RWB), which resulted in six students gaining work experience at the four-star resort during the holidays, has been deemed a success, so much so that it could potentially lead to a viable program and future employment opportunities.
The UB Hospitality and Tourism Institute students were assigned to one of several food and beverage outlets at the resort during the busy holiday season, gaining invaluable knowledge as they worked side-by-side with industry professionals in the fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen. RWB furnished a gratuitous experience for the students, including food, lodging and travel. The company also provided the standard industry wages and a Christmas bonus for their time spent in its outlets.
Culinary arts student Jodeisha Forbes, who was assigned to banquet preparation in the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini's main kitchen, was excited for the opportunity to learn from working chefs.
"This has given me an idea of what it is like to work in a real kitchen and not just at the university. I am confident it will help me to get jobs once I graduate, now that I have this practical experience."
Regene Rolle, whose duties included prepping for the banquet and cooking for lunch, described the experience as pleasurable and exciting.
"This work experience will help advance my educational career because it gives me a taste of what to expect in a real kitchen. I've learned a lot about the culinary industry in general and the hotel kitchen in particular where most famous culinary chefs start out."
Phillease Cooper was assigned to the kitchen of the Hemingway's Sport Bar and Restaurant in the RWB Casino. She says that one of the most important things she learned was multi-tasking.
"I learned how to master dovetailing, which will help me in the long term," she said. "I also learned techniques which will make cooking easier and faster while maintaining safety."
Executive Chef Georg Paulussen was impressed with the students' work ethic and skill set.
"The students were all very professional, well-groomed and very eager to work and learn," he said. "It was a great experience for everyone involved, as all the students represented the university exceptionally well."
Acting Executive Director of UB Hospitality and Tourism Institute Dr. Sophia A. Rolle was pleased to hear that the students successfully applied the principles they learned in class to the industry.
"I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to Resorts World Bimini for their partnership and for taking such good care of our students," said Dr. Rolle. "As a result of this program, our students are now better prepared to pursue a culinary career. We look forward to discussing further how we can make this a more sustainable program."
The students were immersed in the work environment for one week beginning December 27, 2016.

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Castrol Quote of the Day: January 7, 2017
Castrol Quote of the Day: January 7, 2017

January 07, 2017

Castrol Quote of the Day: January 7, 2017

"As you ease into
your normal
routine, be sure to
check all fluid levels
under your hood
and top up
with 'Castrol'
motor oil."

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Ft. Lauderdale Airport Closure Impact to Nassau
Ft. Lauderdale Airport Closure Impact to Nassau

January 06, 2017

All JetBlue flights scheduled between Fort Lauderdale and Nassau this evening are cancelled. Passengers are advised to contact JetBlue concerning flights scheduled for Saturday, January 7, 2017...

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Castrol Quote of the Day: January 6, 2017
Castrol Quote of the Day: January 6, 2017

January 06, 2017

Castrol Quote of the Day: January 6, 2017

"WOW! Priceson 'Castrol GTX
MAGNATEC & EDGE' have gone
in a different direction...
LOWER!"

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McCartney: Baha Mar VAT concession an appalling giveaway

January 05, 2017

The Bahamian people will have to shoulder the economic giveaway that is the value-added tax concession granted by the government to China Construction America (CCA) in a closed-door deal, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney said to Guardian Business yesterday.
McCartney branded the decision of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration to waive VAT for CCA, the mega resort's lead contractor, as an "appalling giveaway" of Bahamian economic interest that underscores the need for Prime Minister Perry Christie and his "cronies" to be voted out of office.
He contended that the PLP seems to have done "anything" to appease the Chinese, adding that Christie has now made them the "economic masters of The Bahamas".
In this most recent revelation of the sealed Baha Mar deal, McCartney said the prime minister is having the Bahamian people shoulder the economic burden that this government has agreed to, to facilitate movement on Baha Mar just ahead of the general election.
McCartney said clearly in the prime minister's mind, The Bahamas must be incredibly wealthy to waive stamp tax, VAT, casino fees, worker permit fees and "God knows what else" in order to continue to prop up what is clearly a "toxic deal" that they have orchestrated with their "Chinese masters".
"Bahamians not only have a right to know all the details of this mythical deal with Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE), they also have a right to reverse it," he said.
"Any government that comes into office has a duty to cancel this deal on the basis that it is clearly not in the best interest of The Bahamas.
"Decisions of this nature clearly cannot be allowed to sit unchallenged. We have a duty to the sovereignty of this country to protect it from the clutches of this PLP crew."
Leader of the Free National Movement Dr. Hubert Minnis took a similar stance regarding the deal struck by government with CTFE.
According to McCartney, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson's pointing to the creation of jobs as a reason for "generous concessions" is further proof of the "beggar's mentality" that this administration has when it comes to dealing with the Beijing government.
"We all heard how V. Alfred Gray spoke about the land proposal they were pushing with the Chinese for Andros," he said.
"Based on what we have seen and heard thus far, from the terms that have been agreed on this Baha Mar deal, it is clear that Christie and his crew are incapable of standing up to the Chinese to protect the interest of Bahamians.
"If he did, the government would have engaged the offer of the project's original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, who not only offered to pay more than CTFE for the project, but also proposed utilizing only Bahamian labor to finish it. That would have been nearly $1 billion injected into the local construction economy, which would have meant instead of over 1,000 Chinese workers out there, there would have been Bahamians working on that project.
"That type of capital injection in this country could have possibly staved off our most recent S&P downgrade. But obviously, this PLP administration doesn't care about Bahamians. They had to do this deal with the Chinese, and the people need to be asking why. What is it that made this deal so sweet for them to push this down the people's throat?
"It's interesting that the Chinese entity that in effect bought the assets from the bank was called Perfect Luck. Perfect Luck for whom? Certainly not for Bahamians, most assuredly for the Chinese and most probably for Christie and his cronies."

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Sands: Need for BCA meeting to address Baha Mar tax exemption concerns

January 05, 2017

The president of the Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) has asserted the need for a stakeholder meeting with all BCA members in order to clear up any hiccups or concerns that news of the VAT concession given by government to China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas Limited to complete the Baha Mar resort, may have brought about.
"We would like to have an opportunity to advise all contractors doing business with CCA, and the nature of the arrangement in which they would be conducting business," said Leonard Sands during an interview with Guardian Business yesterday. "If we don't have an opportunity to truly advise and appraise them of what the risks are, they could end up in a precarious position."
Sands argued that there should be some type of agreement with local suppliers and the involvement of the Ministry of Finance to help enforce the VAT exemption properly.
"They are not going to pay you any invoice that has VAT. So, if you don't have it sorted out properly, you are going to lose money."
According to Sands, the economy will lose out on a huge chunk of revenue as a result of the VAT concession. He also revealed that he thinks the concession is not such a "big deal", adding that local suppliers will benefit from construction activity and local contractors would prefer to be VAT exempt as well. "For the construction industry, we prefer not to be paying VAT anyways," Sands told Guardian Business.
"While the government has given the project this wonderful opportunity, our job would be to ensure that this opportunity doesn't become an onerous
situation for our members who of course are doing business with this major developer (Chow Tai Fook Enterprises) and CCA Bahamas," said Sands.
He also disagreed to some extent with Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson's comments on the matter, who charged that the benefits from the Baha Mar project being completed and operational would far outweigh the concessions granted by the government.
"I don't know if it's fair to say that the benefits would far outweigh the concessions. I think the benefits would outweigh the concessions on the premise of if the resort opens, becomes successful and hires thousands of Bahamians," he said.
He also expressed concerns over the agreement for subcontractors who previously performed work on the project and have been re-engaged. Sands queried what the outcome would be for those subcontractors who get supplies locally with their own monies and are charged VAT.
The email revealing the VAT exemption directs all subcontractors of CCA to present invoices for payment that are devoid of VAT charges.
The email continued: "If you have paid VAT to the government or your own subcontractors and/or suppliers, please record these invoices as listed in the attached summary form and submit to CCA for the review and process of the Bahamas authority."

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BNT expresses concerns about potential sand mining for Florida beaches

January 05, 2017

Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Eric Carey said he does not think the government would encourage or allow anybody to take sand off local beaches in The Bahamas, in light of recent news that The Bahamas is being considered a potential go-to for sand to help shore up some parts of Florida's eroding coast line.
Speaking with Guardian Business yesterday Carey said, "Some people are of the view that there is a lot of it and sufficient quantities to exploit.
"The issue is, do we have sufficient sand to continue to replenish our beaches naturally and then be able to exploit it?"
In a letter sent to Guardian Business yesterday, BNT reached out to Minister of Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett to help address some of the organization's concerns on the matter.
The letter pointed out that sand is understood to be "vital" for the replenishment of Bahamian beaches and for the flats fishing industry.
"Whilst the BNT is aware that sand is considered a renewable resource, we would like to caution that a comprehensive study be undertaken. Such a study would inform proper environmental safeguards needed before consideration of expansion of the sand mining industry is considered," the letter stated.
The BNT also sought to highlight the importance of sand as a natural resource through its impact on climate change by ocean acidification.
"We know that the increase on carbon dioxide levels being absorbed into the water will increase the acidity of the marine environment and this will not bode well for the organisms that produce a calcium carbonate structure, such as the Queen Conch. However, the massive sand deposits in The Bahamas act as a buffer to this increase in acidity and therefore sand could be The Bahamas' best line of defense against the increase in acidity in the marine environment," said the BNT.
The organization noted that a number of queries have been received on the matter and it wrote the letter in anticipation of receiving information to provide as responses.

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Infrequent mailboat visits impacting Cat Island

January 05, 2017

Cat Island hoteliers are suffering due to the mailboat's infrequent visits to Cat Island with its essential supplies.
Tony Armbrister, owner of Fernandez Bay Village, told Guardian Business that he often runs short on supplies to fulfill items on his restaurant's menu.
"The whole island runs out of food," said Armbrister.
"The government used to have them come every week, and I think they are required to do 50 trips a year.
"Since they cut this new deal, these guys don't comply. I have a hotel out here with a restaurant and I'm trying to keep the food fresh, but it's impossible."
Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin told Guardian Business that the current mailboat schedule is something the Progressive Liberal Party government inherited from the previous administration. She said because the mailboat operators receive a subsidy of $8 million annually, the government would have to look at the budgetary constraints related to increasing the number of trips to a particular island.
Hanna-Martin said the government has an obligation to the Family Islands to provide this essential service, but mailboat operators also treat the service as a business, despite the government's subsidy.
Armbrister compared the service to that of the "bus service", but said the mailboat operator chooses not to come more frequently than three times per month.
"You have a whole island down here with people that are starving because he doesn't want to pay the money (to come more frequently)," he said. "There are times I have to charter airplanes to bring in the food to feed my hotel guests. I can't tell my guests 'I'm sorry we don't have'."
Guardian Business learned from another Cat Island hotelier that they, too, often have to fly in supplies because the mailboat operation is too infrequent.
Armbrister runs a 12-room resort that feeds 20 to 40 people per night, and often has to "raid" the local markets to make up for supplies that he has exhausted.
"Even if I bought bigger refrigeration, you can't keep your fresh stuff for two weeks," he said. "The worst thing that happens is I have to start raiding the local stores, which leaves nothing for locals."
Hanna-Martin said her ministry has received complaints in writing, but changing the mailboat schedule is not something the government is looking at before the next general election.
"It would require a revamp and revisit of the entire mailboat system, and we would need to see whether government's finances could manage another once-per-month trip. However, the state has an interest in ensuring connectivity."

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BAMSI lettuce makes a splash at Atlantis expo

January 05, 2017

Key members of the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute's (BAMSI) marketing and distribution team attended the Atlantis Hurricane Recovery Expo, held in December 2016. The expo, an initiative of Atlantis' 'We Care' program, was held to assist team members who were affected by Hurricane Matthew. The event gave the institute an opportunity to connect with hundreds of Bahamians, sharing with them how they can grow stronger through better quality food, education and an interest in farming.
BAMSI's booth showcased a variety of fresh field greens including lettuce, thyme and basil grown in North Andros, along with processed items, such as jams that are manufactured locally. The booth also provided literature on the institute, its academic arm and various agriculture programs, including the Associated Farmers Programme (AFP), which is open to small and backyard farmers.
Spearheaded by the resort's Health and Safety Department, the expo saw some 600 staff members visit a wide range of vendors who shared their products and services with the team members. Joining BAMSI at the event were financial service providers, the National Emergency Management Agency, Maid for a Day, Physiotherapy Services, Mandara Spa and Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre. The aim of the expo was to provide employees with resources they could tap into as they work to achieve a level of normalcy in their lives again.
"We were well-organized and represented," Curlean Major, BAMSI marketing manager assistant, said. "From the opening of the expo to its closing we were bombarded by Atlantis staff who were looking for information on BAMSI and our education programs. Our lettuce was also a big success with the Atlantis staff. We were able to provide them with several types; Red Leaf, Concept, La Rosa and Tropicana."

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Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce appoints new board of directors

January 05, 2017

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce held the first meeting of its new board of directors on Wednesday, where the new slate of business leaders reviewed the chamber's work of the past year and began to lay out its plans for 2017.
The afternoon retreat was an opportunity for the incoming board members to become familiar with the business organization's work for the new year. Newly elected President Mick Holding led the meeting, held at Pelican Bay's convention center in Lucaya, Grand Bahama. The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce is made up of local volunteer business leaders, working to promote and support business development in an effort to encourage growth and expansion in the Grand Bahama economy within a healthy and clean community environment.

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LPIA to ring in 2017 with Strong Passenger Traffic Travelers Advised to Arrive Three Hours Ahead for US and Int'l Flights

January 05, 2017

Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) will ring in 2017 with high passenger counts. Monday, January 2, 2017 is expected to be the busiest day of the holiday season with more than 14,100 persons projected to move through the terminals...

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Castrol Quote of the Day: January 5, 2017
Castrol Quote of the Day: January 5, 2017

January 05, 2017

Castrol Quote of the Day: January5, 2017

"As promised, we
continue in 2017 with
new, lowered prices
on Castrol GTX,
Magnatec & CRB
Plus right here at
Bay Street Garage."

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NHI's third phase on track for early part of 2017

January 04, 2017

Phase three of National Health Insurance (NHI), primary care benefits, is on track to be implemented in the early part of this year, said NHI Project Manager Dr. Delon Brennen.
Brennen said phase four, select catastrophic coverage, and phase three are being worked on in "tandem" in order to avoid waiting until phase three is completed. However, he could not give an exact date as to when primary care benefits will be implemented.
He said the NHI Secretariat is currently meeting with individual primary care providers in order to discuss compensation and reimbursement models.
"We do continue to meet with all providers that look to be a part of NHI as we roll out primary care," Brennan told Guardian Business.
Brennen also pointed out that the National Insurance Board (NIB) is "very much" on board and the NHI team continues to meet with the board.
Permanent Secretary for NHI Peter Deveaux-Isaacs said in a press statement: "We are proud of the progress we've made in 2016 as we get closer each day to fulfilling our commitment to Bahamians, that is to bring modern, affordable and accessible healthcare to all, on the road to universal health coverage. There is much more work ahead, but we are excited to continue to work hard to ensure the successful, continued rollout of NHI Bahamas in 2017.
"In the new year, the NHI Secretariat will continue to work and engage productively with primary care providers to ensure they are educated on the process of registering as NHI-certified primary care providers in January 2017, and will also continue to support Bahamians to ensure they are ready for enrolment in NHI Bahamas."
It noted that progress made in regards to the implementation of NHI includes provider workshops, continuing the consultative process with stakeholders, closing the bids on the RFP relating to the public insurer and wellness provider, completing the draft regulations to facilitate the enrolment process, and launching hiring to support the NHI Authority".

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Regulations for fly fishing sector

January 04, 2017

It has been 23 years in the making, but The Bahamas has finally regulated its fly fishing industry, purported to be worth $500 million, according to Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray. Industry professionals say the industry could be worth even more.
The value of fly fishing globally is around $5 billion, Gray revealed during a press conference yesterday, suggesting that it is important for The Bahamas to regulate and govern the sector, which has drawn in more than 400 Bahamian businessmen.
"The flats fishing sector is an important part of The Bahamas' tourism product and is responsible for the employment of hundreds of Bahamians throughout The Bahamas," said Gray.
"Because this sector was not governed by any form of regulations, those involved in the industry acted as they desired, without rules or regulations and without any safeguards for conservation and sustainability of the industry. This position, we believe, could not be continued."
He added that The Bahamas might have been the last country in the region to implement a regulatory regime for the fly fishing industry, a move local industry professionals told Guardian Business, under condition of anonymity, that has angered many fly fishing associations throughout the United States.
Prescott Smith, president of the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, said he has fought for almost 12 years for the sector to be regulated, and commended Gray and the government for finally championing what will lead to the protection of the industry and
environment, and more government revenues.
Gray said the government and the fly fishing industry decided license fees would be as nominal as possible, with local prices ranging between $5 for one day and $40 for an annual license. Foreigners will pay between $15 for one day and $60 for an annual pass.
The revenue from those licenses will be split between the government and an environmental fund that will protect the flats where fly fishing and bonefishing are done.
The new regulations for the sector were created via a collaboration by the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, the Ministry of Immigration, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Office of the Attorney General and the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Smith said the industry continues to grow, and with 400 guides the sector is in need of more. Those new guides will have to be trained under the new regulations and all licensed fishing guides will have to pay $100 per year.
Gray reminded press conference attendees that commercial fishing is not allowed on the flats where fly fishing is carried out and penalties are in place for anyone who violates the license requirement for fly fishing. Fines of up to $2,000 or six weeks imprisonment are the upper limits for breaches of the regulations. Wardens, appointed under the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, will police the flats.
"These regulations will require all persons using the flats, such as guides, anglers and DIY(ers), to have a license issued by the Department of Marine Resources, or the family island administrators in the Family Islands," said Gray.

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GB to experience automated vehicle licensing system in Feb.

January 04, 2017

Starting the first week of February, customers on Grand Bahama will experience the automated system for vehicle licensing at the Road Traffic Department (RTD). The system, which is part of the $8.3 million modernization project for the department, is expected to have some minor glitches once it is rolled out during the first week. However, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin said she hopes those glitches will be "kept at a minimum".
"The new system has a number of outstanding features which will improve efficiency - something that has been missing for a long time. The new system also has significant security components, which will greatly assist the police, insurance companies, the courts, customs and the treasury," said the transport minister.
The system was first launched in October on New Providence. According to a press statement," Hanna-Martin admitted that when the new system was first rolled out in New Providence there was a certain degree of confusion and even the word 'chaotic' was thrown about."
"There were long lines, people were frustrated and that was understandable, but since then all of the glitches have been resolved and now when drivers in Nassau go to renew their drivers' license or to get their cars licensed, people are being efficiently moved through the system," she said.
"And it would be even more efficient if drivers go to the RTD with the proper paper work, such as passport, driver's license, NIB card or title deeds to vehicles. But when all of this information is entered into the system, it would be at the best possible entry, from a security point of view," the minister continued.
Last year, the new vehicle license plates came on board with a new color and letter scheme.
The minister pointed out that the new design was "not just about aesthetics", but will also include security features.
"The new plates have been designed to be peculiarly receptive to CCTV. In fact, we collaborated with the police department on the design of the new plate. The numbers on the plate have been designed to glow in the dark, which will assist the police and CCTV in identifying a vehicle, even in a situation where there is low light.
"At present the new plates are being created in conjunction with the Ministry of National Security, under the most secure circumstances," she said.
Customers in Grand Bahama will also experience along with the new license plate, the new driver's license. Hanna-Martin said the new license will have its "own set of security features".
"We are looking at doing some other things to improve the information on the new driver's license, but currently it is a secure, new license. The new card will also be embossed with some of the country's national symbols and will be covered with the national colors as well," she explained.
"In Grand Bahama, the first few thousand plates will have the letters GB, followed by the license number. Plates after a certain amount will have the letters FP, followed by the number.
"All of these features have not only been designed with the customers in mind, but also to assist the police on the streets," Hanna-Martin noted.
The features will be the same across all of the Family Islands.

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Leaf EV checks in at Hilton

January 04, 2017

During the recent Chamber of Commerce Bahamas Energy Security Forum, the Nissan Leaf 100 percent electric vehicle (EV) was featured in the lobby of the British Colonial Hilton to the delight of visitors and locals alike, who had the opportunity to experience the world's most popular EV, now available in The Bahamas at Easy ECO Car Sales on Gladstone Road.
The purpose of the Chamber's annual forum is to discuss developments in national energy policy, harnessing alternative sources, and highlighting the power of individuals to make a difference in the production and responsible consumption of energy.
The EV is an essential component of a cleaner, more efficient transportation system. The car is charged by plugging into the electricity grid or by using solar power at home and at work. Because there is no gas-burning combustion engine, service is minimal, and EVs run at one-third the cost of traditional vehicles, empowering individuals and businesses to significantly lower their transportation expenses while reducing their carbon footprint and harmful emissions in our environment.
It was quite a challenge to park the car in the hotel lobby -- the helpful Hilton staff had to remove the front doors, leaving only inches to spare!
To learn more about the wide range of features and options offered by EVs, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhCF5zIiy3o&feature=youtu.be.

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